I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately, and I’ve come to a new conclusion: our old definitions don’t work.
I saw a YouTube video the other day produced by an atheist. He’d been on a Christian website, where he’d read that God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, or wait. He then pointed out that you could pray to a gallon jug of milk, asking for a new car, and have the exact same result.
You know what? He made a good point.
So–stay with me here–I’ve decided that prayer is the primary process through which God conforms us to his will.
If God exists outside of time, and everything He will do is as real to him as the things he has done and is doing– (He is the “I AM,” after all)–
If every “day of my life” is recorded in his book as Scripture says it is–
Since my free will is limited by his design, and his power is limited only by his own being (he can’t do only the things it is impossible for him to do)–
Then everything I would/could/do pray for has already been decreed. So why pray?
First, because he has ordained that our prayers spur his actions. That’s his chosen way of operation, to keep us close and in communication.
Second, because we are to pray according to his will. (1 John 5:14) When we don’t receive what we pray for, it’s because we “ask amiss.” (James 4:3)
When I don’t receive the healing for my sick friend, it’s not that God told me “no.” It’s that He taught me to realize and remember that my sick friend has been healed and she’s alive and well in heaven. When God doesn’t heal my physical complaint, it’s because he wants me to learn patience in suffering, or perhaps to commiserate with others. When God doesn’t bring the prodigal home right away, it’s because he’s teaching his precious child . . . or letting them reach the place where they have nowhere to look but up. Prayer is all about changing my character and molding me into the image of Christ . . . and that’s far beyond the power of a jug of milk.
So many people think that prayer is simply presenting a laundry list of petitions to God (witness Hollywood movies like “Bruce Almighty” where the protagonist is kept hopping to answer prayers like a fairy godfather), and it’s not that at all. It’s unburdening our hearts to him, and then throwing ourselves upon him in faith by declaring, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In my life. In my family.”
I think I can live by this. 🙂 I know I can rest in it.


  1. Lisa

    Wow…great thoughts! I too have been pondering prayer lately. I’d gotten to the point where sadly my attitude was “why bother”. I’ve been learning some things lately and struggling through them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Lynda in MO

    Angie, thank you for this thought-provoking post. I believe that God does answer “no” to our petitions at times, perhaps because they are limited by our human scope of knowledge compared to his omniscience.

    I love the story from Amy Carmichael’s life when she was a very young child. One night she asked God to change her eyes from brown to blue. She was disappointed in the morning to see that her eyes were still brown. When she asked her mother why God did not answer her prayer, her mother responded, “Isn’t ‘no’ an answer?” Later, as Amy served God in India, she wanted to infiltrate a temple to rescue children who were being used by the priests. As she put on Indian garb to go in undetected, someone pointed out how fortunate it was that she had brown eyes – “If your eyes were blue, this would never work,” they told her. She remembered her prayer and thanked God for His sovereignty and wisdom in answering ‘no’ to her childish prayer.

    When God answers ‘no’ it is because He has a greater plan at work. That’s why, as you said, we must always ultimately pray that His will be done.

  3. Patti G.

    Interesting, indeed. Just this morning I thanked God for the times when He said no, because He could see the future. My husband & I can look back and see the times He said “no” and then blocked something from happening. As we look back we can now see why He said no – like blocking us from buying a house – because He knew my husband was about to be down-sized out of a job and we would be moving to another place.

  4. Kay Day

    I remember going through some of the same thought processes a few years ago.
    I want God’s will above all, so why pray?
    But how can I have a relationship with Him if I’m not talking to Him?
    Also, I think that bringing our needs/requests to Him keeps us mindful of our dependence on Him. And then we leave the answer up to Him. And the timing.
    Another thing I’ve learned to do is to first ask Him how I should pray in specific situations. Someone was dying and I wanted to pray for healing, but I clearly heard God tell me to pray for their strength and peace instead. He wasn’t going to heal him here.

  5. Lynda

    It took me some time to realize that “He will give you the desires of your heart” means that sometimes God will first plant His desires in your heart and then grant them to you. We must always pray and be open to His will which can be a challenge. For me prayer is also a form of release. I feel so good after I’ve shared my heart with Him. : )

    Thanks for this word Angie.


  6. dellartist

    I feel that it depends upon a person’s understanding of prayer. If we look at prayer as a magic lamp, we are disappointed when the genie doesn’t pop out and grant us our three wishes. We have to make excuses for ourselves and our prayer lives.
    But for the maturing Christian, prayer is the most amazing and incredible opportunity to speak with the Creator of the Universe, and even more amazing, to know that He is listening. To me,that is mind-blowing. When we approach God with the desire to know Him, really know Him, and be transformed to His likeness, rather than the other way around, then we ask what is in line with His will and character, not like a child with a Christmas list. And when He doesn’t answer our requests as we expect, we understand it is because He is God and we are not. He is the Master, we are the servants, rather than the other way around. And we trust Him to give what is best.


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